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Justice

Hogan Allows Ghost Gun Ban to Become Law Without His Signature, Urges Movement on Other Bills

Lawmakers rallied earlier this year for a bill that would ban untraceable “ghost guns” in Maryland. Photo by Hannah Gaskill.

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) allowed legislation to ban the sale and possession of ghost guns to take effect without his signature on Friday morning, while also imploring lawmakers to take action on his stalled crime-fighting bills.

“I appreciate the work you have put into Senate Bill 387/House Bill 425 to address issues surrounding untraceable firearms, and agree that it is a positive step as we seek to stem the tide of violent crime, which is why I am allowing it to take effect,” Hogan said in a letter to the legislature’s presiding officers. “But it does nothing to penalize those who actually pull the triggers on firearms, and deflects away from the need to take decisive action to hold violent criminals accountable.”

The legislation brought on behalf of Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) and championed by Sen. Susan C. Lee (D-Montgomery) and Del. Lesley J. Lopez (D-Montgomery) will ban the purchase of unserialized firearms on June 1, 2022, and ownership on March 1, 2023.

Anyone who possesses a ghost gun after that date will be subject to a misdemeanor punishable by up to two years imprisonment, averting a lifetime ban on gun possession.

People who sell or transfer the firearms would be subject to a misdemeanor punishable by up to five years imprisonment or a $10,000 fine, and would be unable to own firearms.

Backed by gun control advocates, Lee and Lopez have sponsored legislation to stop the flow of unserialized guns into Maryland for multiple legislative sessions.

“After calls for action from advocates of gun safety and our allies, Maryland lawmakers have passed a transformative bill,” Melissa Ladd, a volunteer leader with the Maryland chapter of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement. “This law is critical to keeping the growing threat of ghost guns out of our communities, our schools, and — most importantly — away from our kids.”

Frosh released a statement Friday afternoon, underscoring the importance of the bill.

“Ghost guns have become a rapidly growing threat to public safety. Easy to assemble kits are available over the Internet. Violent felons, children, and abusers are obtaining these lethal guns in ever larger numbers. Not only are these weapons dangerous, these unserialized, untraceable firearms hinder law enforcement’s efforts to solve gun crimes,” Frosh said. “Our law banning ghost guns in Maryland will save lives.”

In response to the bill’s passage, Lee and Lopez have been invited to go to the White House on Monday, Lee’s chief of staff confirmed.

While Hogan allowed the ghost gun ban to take effect, he called on the legislature to pass two of his crime bills before the session ends on Monday.

The Senate passed his Judicial Transparency Act of 2022, which would require a comprehensive annual report on the sentencing decisions by judges aggregated by county or circuit, including details on sentences outside of the Maryland Sentencing Guidelines.

The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Hogan’s bill late last month, but has not moved the legislation to the floor.

Additionally, Hogan is pressing for the passage of The Violent Firearms Offender Act of 2022, which would increase the length of sentences and impose mandatory penalties for people who have been repeatedly convicted of firearms offenses or have been caught with illegally possessed guns.

Neither chamber has voted this bill out of committee this session.

“At the very least, I ask you to give the victims and their families a vote, so that legislators can explain to their constituents where they stand on this issue,” Hogan wrote in the letter.